Many don’t realize that Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park are both located within the larger Grant Park, which spans 319 acres in the Chicago Loop community area. Along with those notable parks, Grant Park is also home to the Art Institute of Chicago, Buckingham Fountain and Museum Campus. The park is lovingly referred to as “Chicago’s front yard.” It features many baseball diamonds, a rose garden and several public artworks. Originally called Lake Park, the land was officially designated for a park in 1844, and it was renamed in 1901 to honor President Ulysses S. Grant. The park was originally designed by Edward H. Bennett in Beaux Arts style. Due to its long history, the park has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1993. Much of the park is built over sunken railroad tracks, so there are bridges to navigate the park and connect with Millennium Park. Like Millennium Park, Grant Park features many parking garages situated underneath it.
Grant Park Features
The Northwestern corner of Grant Park is occupied by Millennium Park, featuring highlights like the Pritzker Pavilion, Chicago Bean and Lurie Garden. The BP Pedestrian Bridge connects Millennium Park to the rest of Grant Park. Across the BP Bridge to the east is Maggie Daley Park, which hosts many sporting activities. The park is home to skating rinks, a playground, tennis courts, climbing walls and an activities building.
On the midwestern edge of Grant Park is the Art Institute of Chicago—one of the country’s premiere museums and art schools. Built in 1893, the Art Institute is best known for its impressive collection of Impressionist artworks.
Of course, the crown jewel of the park is Buckingham Fountain. An icon of Chicago, the fountain was created in a rococo wedding cake style. From April to October, the fountain features water displays every 20 minutes from 11am to 8pm. The Buckingham Hotel offers some of the city’s best views of the fountain from above.
On the southeastern corner, museum campus is home to Adler Planetarium, Field Museum of Natural History and Shedd Aquarium. The Planetarium is located on neighboring Northerly Island, which is connected by Solidarity Drive. The road is lined with neoclassical sculptures of Nicolaus Copernicus, Kosciuszko and Havlicek.
Concerts and events are held at the Petrillo Music Shell, situated at Jackson and Columbus Drives. Butler Field is next to the shell, offering additional seating and capacity for summer events. Hutchinson field at the southern end of the park offers more open space for large events as well as many baseball and softball fields.
Although there are many access points to the park, there is a ceremonial entrance at the intersection of Ida B. Wells Drive and Michigan Avenue, next to the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Here, Congress Plaza is comprised of two semicircular plazas with gardens, artwork and fountains. Most notably, The Bowman and The Spearman are two bronze statues that act as gatekeepers to the park beyond.
Along with the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park, Grant Park is home to gardens in the McCormick Courtyards which flank the Art Institute building. Here, you can find the bronze Fountain of the Great Lakes and gardens honoring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. More manicured gardens are found in the Court of the Presidents, located due north and south of Ida B. Wells Drive.
For more activities, the park is also home to a popular Skate Plaza, which covers three acres in the southwest corner and draws a cool skate and BMX crowd. On the corner of Columbus Drive and 11th Street, there is the Grant Park Park for dogs, with water fountains offered for pooches and humans alike.
Grant Park Events
Many of the city’s largest events are held in Grant Park, and have been since its inception. The park was even the staging ground for President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession in 1865. Since, it has hosted many happier events, like President Barack Obama’s Election Day victory speech in 2008. Annual celebrations here include Taste of Chicago, Blues fest and Lollapalooza. The Grant Park Music Festival and Chicago Jazz Festival are held here as well, and the park is also the site of the start and finish lines for the Chicago Marathon.